Lives are at stake, you need a hero.Prince Naveen
Starring Lana Parrilla, Colin O’Donoghue, Andrew J. West, Dania Ramirez, Alison Fernandez, Mekia Cox, and Robert Carlyle
Episode 12: A Taste of the Heights
One of the strengths of Once Upon a Time has always been to expand a character through the flashbacks in each episode. It shines a light upon different people rather than just the core players. In this case, it is Princess Tiana, otherwise known as Sabine, played by Mekia Cox, who, despite having a centric episode earlier in the season, has lingered in the background since this point. Despite the charm and likability of the character and performance, however, this relatively standalone episode comes at a random point in the narrative, which broadly serves to strip some key emotional moments of their weight and momentum, which actually serves as a detriment to Tiana’s story. Ultimately, it appears that Tiana’s character is being served in a similar way to Belle and Ruby’s, in that she has the occasional episode, but otherwise is not developed or expanded upon.
“A Taste of the Heights” builds off what we learned of Tiana’s past in “Greenbacks”, which makes sense, because we haven’t really seen Tiana in a meaningful way since then, either in the past or the present. Tiana is being crowned as Queen, when an urgent issue befalls her people and she must go and protect them. Along the way, she encounters Naveen, a Prince in his own right.
Throughout the episode, Cox clearly demonstrates Tiana’s tenacity and her assertive way of handling problems. That’s not to say that Tiana isn’t flawed, however, as it also shows how headstrong and independent she is. That’s not to say that those are bad qualities, but they do involve her shutting out help and not being open to receiving that, which is where she butts heads with Naveen, both in the New Enchanted Forest and when he turns up in Hyperion Heights.
In Hyperion Heights, the action follows Sabine as she serves at her first event with her and Jacinda’s truck “Rollin’ Bayou” – a pun, I am embarrassed to say, that I am only getting now. Unfortunately, Sabine doesn’t have all of the required paperwork to serve at this event (she blames Drew/Naveen for that, but really it’s entirely her own fault, because licenses exist for a reason). Long story short, it turns out that Drew was meant to sabotage her food truck on the orders of Dr. Facilier. Quite what Dr. Facilier hopes to achieve out of ruining Tiana’s food truck is anybody’s guess, but it seems remarkably small fry compared to the fact that we saw Victoria Belfrey sacrificed last week by Gothel, who is still on the loose, but conspicuously absent from this instalment.
That’s where most of the problems of this episode come, as I mentioned earlier. It’s a massive shame for Mekia Cox, who pulls out a brilliant performance, and definitely makes the audience root for her and support her character, but it also reeks of an episode that, ultimately, will prove inconsequential in regards to her content.
This is largely because of its placement in the larger storyline. After Victoria died, sacrificing herself for the daughter who she never told she loved, it would have been nice to keep up that momentum and the focus that there was upon the Gothel/Anastasia/Ivy storyline and what the next steps are, but instead the action pulls away from that. It’s a shame for Ivy’s character as well, as I feel like we’ve been robbed of her reaction to the event. Nobody really treats Victoria’s death as something of consequence, but carry on as usual. It makes a modicum of sense in a storytelling sense, as the characters hardly know all about Victoria’s history that the audience do, nor the exact reasons behind her death.
However, it seems tonally confusing for Lucy to immediately jump from her grandmother dying, to brazenly focused upon getting her parents together. It’s understandable that she’s excited because of all that Victoria revealed to her before casually putting her in a coma, but I am slightly worried at how easily Lucy just brushes Victoria’s death off, even if she did think of her as the evil stepmother. Imagine if we had that with Henry and Regina in Season 1. That would be harrowing.
What’s more, it’s still insanely tricky to consciously invest in Henry and Jacinda’s romance. Not least because of the fact that we know that they can’t get together, but also because I have yet to be persuaded of a reason why they would want to be together, apart from the fact that they are both adults of the opposite gender, and apparently that’s all it takes. The flashbacks have yet to actually show the pair of them as having any romantic potential, and the timeline has jumped massively from them barely acknowledging each other, to now having a kid. Even in the times that we’ve seen them have Lucy, they seem to just be holding her and looking at her in the background of a scene, like in the last episode, where they completely blanked Zelena jumping through a portal into the New Enchanted Forest because they were so focussed upon staring at their small, frankly uninteresting little flesh slab. Henry didn’t even say hello, and that is just poor manners, which likely explains why Lucy doesn’t care that her grandmother is dead. Manners matter, Henry.
Even when the pair are in scenes together in the past, they don’t actually interact with each other as if they are in love or married, and this is a major problem that needs fixing. It’s slightly infuriating that it isn’t, to be frank, as Kitsis and Horowitz made it clear that they were plotting towards the conclusion of the show from Christmas onwards, and reflecting upon what worked well and what needed refinement from the first part of the season. They must be entirely clueless if they honestly believe that Henry and Ella’s relationship until this point has been successful, and they’ve shown time and time again that they are able to give their characters depth and make them likeable, they just don’t seem to be particularly bothered about making this one work. So quite why they are continuing to hammer it home by making it the plot nexus of the entire season is entirely baffling.
The fact that Lucy now realises that Henry will die because of the curse breaking is just even more irritating, as now we’ve dragged Lucy into it and, unlike Regina, it’s going to be pretty much the only thing she will talk about from this point onwards, and nobody is especially interested in Henry and Jacinda being together. They have to be the most boring couple in existence, and I have seen an awful lot of straight couples in my life, and none of them are especially interesting. They always seem to meet at parties, and they’re always vaguely problematic, so it’s better to just steer clear of it all. Also, different colours for different genders should have been abolished years ago. Decorating a baby shower in blue because you’re having a boy is the tackiest thing you can do, people. It’s 2020, grow up. Now that I’ve got those tangential remarks off my chest…
Elsewhere, in a frankly bizarre and mindblowing turn of events, it turns out that Regina and Dr. Facilier have a secret history, by which I mean that they’re having sex now. I’m not sure why they’ve decided to throw this spanner in the works, frankly, and I hope that it doesn’t stick, as I do worry that Regina’s happy ending will end up being a man and that would send all kinds of wrong messages. More importantly, it’s obvious that Facilier is a slimy person who nobody should trust, so I’m not going to waste my energy on actually investing in this pairing.
Meanwhile, because Rogers is a police officer and we need something for him to do, it turns out that the killer, who successfully offed the Doctor at the end of the previous episode and tried to kill a blind baker who baked gingerbread is after members of Gothel’s coven, as both of these women had the tattoo of the Coven of the Eight on their wrists. So if I were to hazard a guess, I would have to assume that the person doing the killings is awake? Why else would killing the members of the coven make sense? And if the killer is killing off Gothel’s coven, then are they really a threat for our heroes? I miss Storybrooke. Serial killers don’t seem to strike sleepy New England towns, apparently. Seattle is brutal.
So, with Regina sleeping with a formidable supernatural force, Lucy now trying to keep her parents from kissing each other, for fear of her father dying (have fun talking about that one in therapy) and Tiana doing something with her food truck which, let’s be honest will bear no consequence whatsoever, the second half of Season 7 has already taken a bit of an unsatisfactory dive. While the previous episode was so focussed upon what Once Upon a Time used to be about: the real lingering behind the fairytale, this season as a whole has far too much of a disconnect in that respect. It seems to explore the real world in complete isolation to the fairytale ideas, and it’s incredibly jarring. What’s more, its exploration of familial and loving relationships is lacking when compared to its sensationalist plots concerning serial killers and police investigations. These are the sorts of storylines that are more possible when relocating a show into a bigger city, but they do serve to distract from the spirit of the programme.
You can watch Once Upon a Time Seasons 1 – 7 on Netflix. Seasons 1 – 4 are now available on Disney+ in the UK. It is also available on home media and other digital platforms for purchase or rent.